Toon Series Addresses Arab/American Rift

Where politicians have failed in bridging the cultural and social rift that exists between the Arab world and the West, perhaps cartoons can succeed. At least that’s the dream of Jordanian animation studio Rubicon, Washington, DC-based Layalina Prods. and Los Angeles-based distributor Fat Rock Ent. The three entities have joined forces to produce and distribute an animated DVD series for Arab and American audiences.

The 13-episode series Ben & Izzy is created specifically to address cultural differences between Americans and Arabs. Distribution will principally focus on the fast growing worldwide DVD market. The production will also air on satellite and television broadcast networks both in the Middle East and the U.S.

Ben & Izzy will follow the exploits of two pre-teen boys, one Arab and one American. The boys meet in Amman, Jordan where their grandfathers are working together on a massive archeologicl excavation. The mischievous boys uncover an ancient treasure room containing a time-travel mechanism that takes them back to great historical moments in the Middle East and the U.S. Their experiences in history illustrate the values and cultural developments shared by both cultures today.

Rubicon CEO Randa Ayoubi, Layalina Prods. chairman of the board Ambassador Richard Fairbanks and Fat Rock CEO David Pritchard are spearheading the project, budgeted at $5 million.

Rubicon, a shareholder in Fat Rock Ent,. will be the principal animation studio and production company on the series, which is created by Fat Rock’s Pritchard, a multiple Emmy-winning animation producer whose credits include The Simpsons, King of the Hill and Dr. Katz, Licensed Therapist. Fat Rock will supervise the production through its U.S. production partner, independent animation studio Sabella Dern Ent. Layalina Prods. will assist in the financing and distribution of Ben & Izzy. The company was created by Fairbanks, a former special Middle East peace negotiator, in 2002 as a non-profit TV production corporation to produce and license thoughtful Arabic-language programming.

Animation director Paul Sabella, formerly of Hanna-Barbera and MGM Animation, and animation producer Jonathan Dern, formerly of DIC and MGM Animation, will join Pritchard in heading up the creative team. Writing teams and animators will soon be selected from both the Arab and American creative communities.